Top 5 Pets for Kids

Every parent at one point or another considers purchasing a pet for his or her child. But which furry (or not) friend works best with kids? Breezy Mama turned to Sean Rose a pet concierge (you read that right) and animal specialist with 10 years experience to get his picks and why he chose them. Plus! The worst pets for kids, common mistakes parents make when purchasing pets for their children and best picks for kids with allergies.

From Sean:

When it comes to animals and pet keeping for kids, you have to look at it as less of a companion, like cats or dogs, but more of a hobby in which you and your child can explore together. In the years I have spent in the hobby and trade, numerous animals of different categories really stand out to me as true starter pets. The list I have narrowed down is what I feel is the top choice of animals to start with. This list includes:

5. Fancy Rat:
Rats are social, affectionate, and extremely intelligent. Often, they are compared to dogs as they are easily tamed and love attention. Rats rarely bite, unlike hamsters and gerbils who tend to be extremely nippy animals. Unfortunately, wild rats and Hollywood have given them a bad reputation that is not true to domesticated rats.

4. Betta Fish:
Also known as Siamese Fighting Fish, Betta are perfect for kids! They vary in color and vibrancy which will surely attract a youngster. Originating from the rice patties in Thailand, this unique fish has developed the ability to breathe both atmospheric air and dissolved oxygen in water. This enables them to live in smaller habitats. Although they can survive in a small tank, it is recommended to provide them at least a 2.5 – 5 gallon tank. Filtration is not necessarily, although can be beneficial, simply cleaning the tank once a week and putting in spring water or dechlorinated tap water will keep your fish happy! They are tropical fish so it is necessary to keep them in a room between 70 and 80 degrees.

3. Leopard Gecko:
The Leopard Gecko is a really great choice for any kid wanting to get into reptiles. Having been bred in captivity, breeders have managed to create an array of exotic colors that will surely catch your child’s eye. The Leopard Gecko is extremely tame and can be handled easily. They also do not require a lot of space and are quite the hardy reptile! Although mealworms are usually a staple, Leopard Geckos can be fed crickets as well. Watching your Gecko try and catch the crickets will keep your child captivated! One of the key things that makes this animal easy to care for is since they are nocturnal, they do not require any full spectrum lighting. A Leopard Gecko is an all around wonderful pet to have.

2. Madagascar Hissing Cockroach:
If your child is constantly out in the yard playing with bugs, maybe insects would be the ideal pet solution. Keeping insects is a simple and interesting hobby and allows your child real insight on the natural behaviors of bugs in the wild. The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is considered to be the simplest, in terms of needs and requirements of the majority of the insect community. They are hardy yet docile and sweet insects that eat various fruits and vegetables. They can live in a 2.5 to 15 gallon tank, but it is important to note that the more floor space, the better.

1. Fire Belly Toad:
Wet and slimy Fire Belly Toads will keep your child entertained for hours. These outgoing little toads spend their days actively engaging with each other and the environment of the tank. Often the males will call to females in a very quiet, peeping noise. Being nocturnal helps in the simplicity of care for these amphibians due to the fact that there are no lighting requirements. Three to four of these toads can be kept together in a 10 – 20 gallon tank since they are community animals. Fire Belly Toads secrete a Bufo toxin that is not fatal. However, it is not recommended to swallow it! Handling should be kept to a minimum and one must always wash their hands before and after handling this toad or when doing maintenance on the tank. Since all amphibians absorb water through their skin, they are more susceptible to impurities and toxins in the water. Always offer spring or de-chlorinated water in their tanks at all times. This can be provided through a bowl in the tank that is cleaned weekly.

Why did you pick these 5?

There really is no true top five. I chose these animals for several different reasons. Each animal is listed based on simplicity of care and compatibility with children based on their specific interests.

In your experience, what are some of the worst pets for kids and you would advise parents to avoid and why?

In my opinion, some of the worst pets for kids are animals that require more specific husbandry needs, are not as tamable, venomous, or grow large in size. Some of these animals includes hamsters, green iguanas, all saltwater fish, turtles, and tarantulas. Hamsters, although common pets for kids, can be extremely nippy due to lack of proper nutrition in their captive diets. Though common throughout most pet stores, the aggressive-natured Green Iguana has very specific dietary needs and grow up to 6 feet in length. The housing requirements of a full grown Green Iguana is about the size of an average household bedroom. Some of these pets like turtles or saltwater fish have such specific care requirements that only an experienced hobbyist is capable of tackling the task of keeping these pets. The Red-Ear Slider is a basking species of turtle that can grow up to a shell length of about 12 inches. The rule of thumb for most aquatic turtle species is 10 gallons of water per inch of shell length. Some of the tank sizes alone for a single adult turtle can be in excess of 100 – 150 gallons with hundreds of dollars invested in filtration. Tarantulas on the other hand, although typically friendly and non-aggressive, can deliver a nasty bite and carry the same amount of toxic venom to that of a bee sting. If your child is allergic to bee stings, he or she is more than likely allergic to the venomous bite of a tarantula.

What are some common mistakes parents make when purchasing a pet for a child?

Impulse buying. Buying an animal without understanding its needs, care, dietary, and husbandry requirements. A common occurrence when people impulse buy animals is they lose interest and forgo the proper care needed. You should always research any animal you are planning to purchase so you know how to properly care and meet the animal’s husbandry needs.

What pets are great for kids with allergies?

Fish, Reptiles, and insects are all great for kids with allergies because the animals lack dander, commonly found with our fuzzier friends. Some dogs are considered more hypo-allergenic than other breeds. Depending on the severity of your child’s allergies, a dog may also be a suitable companion.

What types of pets require the least maintenance?

One should realize when buying a pet that no animal is maintenance free. Even the animals listed as my best picks for children require certain care, which is why one should always do research. Due to their domestication and adaption to human households, dogs and cats are the simplest to care for. If dogs and cats are not an option for your family, my best picks are all considered lower maintenance pets.

Anything else you’d like to share on pets and kids?

Keeping pets is a big deal for kids. It helps them with maturity, responsibility, and provides them with an engaging form of education. Although this is a great learning experience, at the same time it is the parent’s responsibility ultimately to make sure the animal is getting the proper care it needs. Pet keeping can be a great bonding experience for a family. I encourage all parents to research and learn as much as possible about the pet coming into your home before purchasing. Online research and forum communities can steer you in the right direction for quality pet care. There are also plenty of books that can be found at the local library or bookstore with loads of information specific to your new pet.

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About Sean Rose
Sean grew up on a small farm, caring for horses, goats, pigs, ducks, dogs and cats. His family have been also been in the pet grooming industry for over 30 years. As a boy when Sean was not working on the farm, he was in the family grooming shops learning the business from washing, cutting, pet care, nutrition, skin and how to provide a good environment for the animals.

Sean’s passion for animals went far beyond the farm animals and the dogs and cats in the grooming shops he grew up with .

As an older teen into adulthood Sean began intensive studies of Herpetology , Rodentology and Entomology.

With a strong emphasis on frogs, lizards and turtles.

Sean’s passion for the animal and rodent world led him to helping families choose the right ‘pet’ for their home as a Private Pet Concierge.

He is not only an expert at choosing the correct pet for the family home, but also teaching the family the proper cage set up and caring for the pet.

He has helped many families to not only choose the perfect pet but how to insure the long and healthy life of the pet.

When Sean is not involved in the animal world he works on his other passion, BMX biking and the expansion of his biking business.

To speak with Sean, please email:

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  1. I disagree. I work with all the animals listed as top 5 and most aren’t suitable for children. Bettas are a great pet because they do not require a lot of care. Rats make good pets but only when the child reaches the age of about 8. Toads and geckos can give children salmonellaand ahve specific requirements for care in order for them to thrive. And lastly, cockroaches don’t make good pets as most people don’t want them in their houses!

    As far as good pets go animals such as Guinea Pigs, Hermit Crabs, most dwarf hamsters, cats and dogs are more suitable for small children.

  2. I disagree with you and would like some facts behind the animals you chose. It’s just, I’ve had all of those animals with kids before and they have been horrible! (excluding cats and dogs). Guinea Pigs require constant cage cleans and bite. Hermit crabs are boring animals that die after the summer because no one knows how to properly care for them, and when I had dwarf hamsters they also bit my kids, got mites, AND ended up eating each others guts out.

    No child can take care of a pet on their own and must be supervised when playing with a pet. I’ve had TONS of rats with my kids and they are by far the best.

    Also, on a final note, this article gives the best animals from like different categories I think…each one is like a furry animal, a reptile, an insect, a fish, an an amphibian. Despite people perhaps not wanting a cockroach, if a kid wants an insect that is CLEARLY the best kind to have! People get their kids anoles all the time and those can carry salmonella as well.

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